The Agronomists, Ep 16: Dale Cowan and Matt Chapple on planter setup

Achieving a perfect planting pass requires fine-tuning equipment, fit soil, and patience.

To discuss how to get there, The Agronomists’ host Shaun Haney is joined by Dale Cowan, senior agronomist for AGRIS Co-op, and Matt Chapple, market development agronomist for PRIDE Seeds. The trio tackle set up, down force, soil conditions, monitoring and so much more.

The Agronomists runs every Monday evening at 8 pm E/6 pm M! 

Why do you think planter set up is so important?

  • fundamental piece of farming — you only want to do it once, and you want to do it right!
  • start the year off right.
  • maximize what we have control of
  • Plant technology is only as good as the conditions you plant into, says Cowan
  • However — good tech is still important!
  • No field is perfectly consistent, says Chapple, so the technology helps minimize the margin of error
  • Monitors help achieve that

Clip 1: Shaun Dilliott with Kearney Planters

  • How about that checklist?
  • Fewer and fewer days of ideal planting conditions — don’t want to waste a good day fixing something
  • Get a pen and a paper out for this next clip, it’s a good one, chock full of info!

Clip 2: Horst Bohner, OMAFRA

  • Depth of the coulter in front of the seed unit, so important
  • 6 bushels on corn for seeding rate? Cowan says yes!
  • Is there any situation where you wouldn’t use a seed firmer? Cowan says none comes to mind
  • Make sure you aren’t giving those beans the cold drink! They do not like imbibitional chilling.
  • Most often overlooked planter component that can have the highest impact on yield? Double disc seed opener, says Cowan
  • Chapple says the allowance is a half an inch of wear
  • Often times down pressure is overlooked, and not set properly, says Chapple. It really does make a difference, folks. Too much down pressure causes seed to soil issues, as well as emergence issues
  • Keep your coulters sharp to reduce hair-pinning
  • Is planting window getting narrower? They seem to think so.
  • Shouldn’t be planting in those cool wet conditions, so planting all night does not actually help you in the long run
  • From a planter perspective what’s the simplest thing growers can do to improve uniform emergence? Speed. Pay attention to your speed. And of course, consistent seeding depth.
  • Recommendations on setting your seed firmer? Not easy to do a generic answer. You have to set it in the field. Cowan says it’s all about trial and error. Figure out what works out best for your operation.

Clip 3: Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal

  • Chapple tried one year planting corn 3″ deep. The weather didn’t participate…but he would like to try again.
  • When looking at ear rot infection, guess what comes into play? Emergence! Planting depth! It all counts. Let’s get that crop off to a good start.
  • Correlation on clay soils where there is more inconsistent seeding depths, and the reality is, that results in very different emergence. You will struggle through the whole season. Makes it very difficult to apply fungicides and evaluate plant health.
  • The art of applying the science is key, says Cowan. The takeaway  — we never stop learning.
  • What’s the optimum speed for the planter? Chapple is a big fan of 5 mph.
  • Oh no, we lost Chapple! Power outage? Yep. That’s a new one. It’s agronomy showbiz.
  • Take out the shovel, and dig down. We can never really replace boots to the ground, says Cowan
  • Smooth rolling after tillage?
  • What did we learn about planting corn in the cold in 2020? The big one: Cold and dry is better than cold and wet. Looking at the number of acres of replant, they were lower in 2020 than they were in 2019.

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